Ministry of Defense headquarters, Tunis, Tunisia
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you very much.
Mr. Minister, thank you for your hospitality, and I'm very pleased to be here.
I appreciate the very impressive honors ceremony on my arrival. I've been here previously as a tourist and there was nothing like that.
We've had good meetings and I certainly look forward to my discussions later today with the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The partnership between our countries goes back many decades, and certainly some of the most difficult and earliest battles by the US Army in World War II were fought on Tunisian soil. I've had the privilege of visiting the cemetery at Carthage which is an impressive reminder for all of us that freedom does not come without cost and that our nations do need to stay vigilant to protect our people.
Over the years our countries have benefited from very constructive military and diplomatic cooperation. In fact our Annual Joint Military Commission Meeting last spring was the 20th such gathering.
The American people have greatly appreciated Tunisia's assistance and support after September 11th, and I should add, Tunisia's assistance in connection with the hurricane Katrina which caused so much damage in the United States so recently.
Both of our countries have been attacked by violent extremists so we know well the stakes involved in the struggle that's being waged. Tunisia has long been an important voice of moderation and tolerance in this region and played a key role in confronting extremists, not just within this country, but in the area as well and we appreciate those important contributions.
The United States lauds Tunisia's economic and social progress. Our Presidents have met together and discussed the fact that history teaches that political and economic freedom go hand in hand and each over time tends to depend on the other to bring about long term stability.
The United States is very pleased to stand with the people of Tunisia and we look forward to continuing our close cooperative relationship.
Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.
MOD MORJANE: Thank you.